Hamlet Ghost Research Paper

Pages: 5 (1548 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Mythology

Hamlet - Ghost

Besides the ghost of Hamlet's father, few characters in Shakespeare have such a great impact on the plot and so few lines spoken. Since Hamlet is so problematic in structure, and the ghost is so sparse in words, one large problem is left to the audience: do we believe in ghosts? If we heard through supernatural means that a worldly injustice can be solved, would we follow through with it? What if the ghost were at odds with God? Whether the ghost's "intentions wicked or charitable,"

Hamlet senses duty, and is dedicated to speaking with the ghost. The tragedy of the play is not merely in the melancholy opening of the play, but in the final failure of Hamlet to escape the melancholy. The intentions of the ghost are for justice, for good against the evil of Claudius. However, when Hamlet loses self-control, he plunges into tragedy.

The ghost appears once in silence to the nightwatchmen at the same time every night. When this comes to the attention of Hamlet, he is obsessed with the motivation it gives him. He is crazy about his new job of vengeance and becomes engrossed by it, ultimately losing sight of what is really important. I think the moral of the story is that when you're looking for trouble, you'll get lost in it soon enough. The melancholy Dane bit off more than he could chew.

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When an author uses supernatural effects to begin a story, that author is usually making a statement about storytelling as a "field" or about the supernatural Itself. The ghost of Hamlet's father makes things happen, and everything emerges from the ghost. Were there no ghost, there would be absolutely no impetus for a story. In Hamlet, when the ghost creeps upon the stage, the audience is expected to suspend any disbelief in ghosts, and prepare for the story to answer the mysteries that invoking the supernatural may raise. The convention of summoning supernatural forces in drama can have the effect of transcending realism, and opening a way for stating a transcendental problem. In Hamlet, the ghost triggers an enquiry into morality that becomes more and more complex as the plot develops.

Research Paper on Hamlet Ghost Assignment

Greenblatt, in Hamlet in Purgatory, states that "what is at stake in the shift of emphasis from vengeance to remembrance is nothing less than the whole play" (Greenblatt 208). The supplication of the ghost, "Adieu, adieu, adieu! Remember me!" become the Hamlet's imperative, rather than the central act of vengeance. He literally writes down that phrase in his notebook so as to remember it. Remembering the ghost is somehow more important than following its command, and this makes Hamlet an eerily enlightened figure.

But why does the specter not influence Horatio and Marcellus as strangely as it effects the Prince if they both look on while the ghost and Hamlet hold discourse? The supernatural power of the ghost is apparently limited to confounding Hamlet's life, and not those of his compatriots. Indeed, the two keep quite cool about it. If Hamlet's life is really turned upside-down by this revelation, then how can those two go about their "business and desire" (I.v.130), while Hamlet clears the "book and volume" (I.v.103) of his mind to make way for vengeance? The ghost even maddens Ophelia, albeit indirectly. The ghost appears before Gertrude, but she cannot perceive it. Perhaps the reason why Hamlet is so exceptional is because -- pardon the tautology -- Hamlet is the main character. His psychology is studied because he is at the center of characteristic agony. He is alone in the world, and he makes mistakes only to assert himself. He is drawn to the escapism of theater, and when the ghost reveals the bad news, his negative feelings are validated -- not the negative feelings of others. He is the only one who has lost out due to Claudius's realpolitik, and he is the only one who is affected by the supernatural. Thus, Hamlet is at once a story of awakening into the poverty of existence, and a story of awakening into fantasy.

The structure of Hamlet is perhaps what has made it so interesting to centuries of scholars, for it pits theater against theatricality: the "mousetrap" play of crazy Hamlet's invention experiments with a confused audience. The ghost's position in the structure of Hamlet is different from its position in Hamlet's mousetrap. While in Hamlet, the ghost is at the frontier of "pales and forts of reason" (I.iv.28), in Hamlet's mousetrap the spirit of vengeance is in its full rational bloom. In Eliot's words, "Hamlet is stratification" (cf. Hoy 181). The play-within-a-play does indeed "hold a mirror up to nature" (III.ii.18), specifically, the nature of his play-world. Certainly by the time the play is about to start, Hamlet is more interested in theater than the mission of vengeance. He instructs the players to neither be too exuberant or too dull (III.ii.1-29). During the play, he won't shut up. Ophelia complains, "You are as good as a chorus, my lord" (III.ii.224). The craft of a play within a play does not resolve Hamlet's problem as a character, but brilliantly resolves the problem of the supernatural.

It is due to this obsession with theater -- an obsession rationally generated from of the irrational obsession with the ghost in Act I -- that Hamlet loses his goal. All the springes are set for a perfect murder, and within the rational world, the ghost's wish may be consummated. At this juncture, when Claudius flees in terror, the prince may kill him and reclaim justice. Yet ultimately, the asymmetry between the ghost's mysterious irrationability (Do ghosts truly exist, and was that ghost demonic? The audience wonders) and Claudius's certain guilt prohibits Hamlet from taking imperfect action. What Hamlet sets up supernaturally, Hamlet shuts down naturally.

From the start, Hamlet is destined to come up short shrift in his mission, yet the encounter between Hamlet and his father's ghost represents the true beginning of plot events; it is not until the ghost's final visitation does it become clear that the supernatural mission is destined to fail for natural reasons. A key motif in Hamlet is the power of words over actions. When greeting Claudius before the play, the King says "These words are not mine." In response, Hamlet says "No, nor mine now" (III.ii.86-8). After the mousetrap play is brought to a grinding halt, Hamlet prepares to visit his mother's chamber, in order to "speak daggers to her, but use none (III.ii.359). The origin of this failure is perhaps in the vagueness with which the ghost instructs Hamlet.

If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not.

Let not the royal bed of Denmark be

A couch for luxury and damned incest.

But howsomever thou pursues this act,

Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive

Against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven,

And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge

To prick and sting her (I.iii.82-8).

The ghost asks Hamlet to kick ass, but not to hurt the lady Gertrude. It is impossible not to offend Mother. In dreding up the sins of a second husband, the wife goes on the trial for her chastity. While Hamlet thought this was a great idea from the get-go, he did not think through the fact that he will be insulting Mom as well. This comes out suddenly in an overflow of accusation. The ghost emerges in a rout for Gertrude's sake (III.iv.104-19), but is too late. The problem that Hamlet faces is between two extremes, and paradoxically, his machinations merely compound his misery. Despite the clever construction of the mousetrap, both Claudius and Gertrude are insulted by the play. Claudius goes to pray and seeks God, while Gertrude finds madness in her son's soul. Now… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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